I think the optimal blend of human emotion is equal parts excitement and anxiety. Excitement because we need that buzz, that sky’s-the-limit, can-do attitude; anxiety because sometimes we need to establish a no-fly zone.
When I go shopping, I find that optimal blend.
Not all types of shopping, obviously. Food shopping is a chore, with its long lists and parents’ credit cards. Gift shopping is stressful, because I’ll never really know if the giftee appreciates my last-minute purchase. And buying things I need—school supplies, paper towels, heroin—is goal-oriented, which makes it constricting.
No, that rush, that indescribable feeling—or rather, near-indescribable, since it’s the topic of this piece—only springs forth when I’m shopping for one thing: clothes.
For me, shopping is not an activity—it’s an event. Something to be considered, planned, and executed. Much like my shopping role models—the women of “Sex and the City”—I’ve grown too old for games. Forethought and advanced planning are necessary for me to maximize my shopping utility, a concept you can learn in Ec10 for the low-low price of $125.
Through many years of experience, I’ve learned that the ideal time to go shopping is late in the morning on a weekday; cutting school has never presented me with any moral qualms. At that time of day, the Casuals are at work, school, or somewhere else equally unimportant, so I needn’t worry about long lines for the changing room, or some human piece of dumpster trash trying to steal a sweater out of my hands at Banana Republic, or another totally hypothetical, fictitious situation.
On weekday mornings, the only people populating clothing stores are me, the exasperated retailers tired of me sending them to “the back” for various sizes, and hands-on moms who drag piles of clothes to the changing rooms for their lazy children like lionesses bringing home zebra carcasses. With these comrades-in-arms I thrive, and my excitement level peaks. Our mutual love for morning shopping excursions creates a bond, and it’s not a bond that easily breaks.
But then comes the anxiety. Excitement says to try on everything and anything; anxiety says some clothes aren’t for your gender, your size, your sexuality; excitement says those orange pants are fun; anxiety says they’re too gay to avoid judgment; excitement says that shirt is bright and colorful; anxiety says it’s loud, attention-seeking; excitement says just to buy the clothes that fit you; anxiety says to buy one size too small and make it work.
Often, there are limits to the extent that we can control how we feel, but we can always control how we act. I often can’t help staring at the mirror in the changing room for what feels like hours, panicking from buyer’s remorse at the register as I hand over my credit card, or being just the tiniest bit self-conscious when I wear new clothes out in the wild for the first time.
But I try to make sure those feelings don’t change how I act—or rather, what I buy. Instead of suppressing my exclusively-a-first-world-problem shopping anxiety, I, perhaps paradoxically, use it to inspire me. It pushes me to move outside of what my family, the media, or “society” is comfortable with—outside of what I’m comfortable with, onto some sort of edge. An edge that sharpened my claws as I sunk them into that Banana Republic sweater.
So on any given weekday morning, you can find me at the nearest mall, trying on orange pants and bright shirts, despite the little voice in my head. Let the anxiety march on.